Ali Slagle's Cheesy Black Bean Bake

Ali Slage's Cheesy Black Bean Bake

Some days you have the time to leisurely cook a sack of dried beans the way they did in the olden days, linen apron blowing in the gentle breeze, the faraway shout of children tumbling down the heather-topped hill echoing faintly back to your gorgeously rustic, yet well-appointed kitchen; other days, you are so frantic and stressed that even the MERE IDEA of turning on the flame to get dinner started is enough to give you a nervous breakdown. On those days, you need this cheesy black bean bake in your repertoire, because it barely counts as cooking and yet delivers a pretty bang-up meal in basically seconds, PLUS you get to eat it with rice if it's not the worst absolute day of your week OR tortilla chips if it is the worst absolute day of your week. And it is so satisfying and delicious that it'll make you feel just fine about dialing it in.

You probably have all the ingredients for it in your pantry/fridge as we speak, but truly the most essential ingredient is one that isn't listed here and that is the cold beer that you must must must have on hand to drink with dinner. It makes the bean bake all the more delicious, PLUS if you're having the kind of day that warrants this meal for dinner, then the cold beer is even more important. (Alternatively, a margarita; I don't know your life.)

Hugo, as I may have mentioned in the past—and forgive me if I continue to harp on it in the future, but I reserve the right to complain about certain aspects of my children's characters and disliking melted cheese DEFINITELY counts as a (slight) character flaw in my book—dislikes melted cheese. The melted cheese on top of these beans is absolutely crucial, I find, but if you simply scoop the beans out from under the cheese, you can procure cheeseless beans for these kinds of picky eaters, as well as having extra cheese for the rest of you who are sane enough to realize that melted and burnished cheddar should be its own food group.

If you're organized enough to have a ripe avocado on hand, you could do worse than slicing it up and serving it with the beans and chips or beans and rice. Pickled onions would also be a lovely touch! Neither of them ever happen in my house, because I reserve this bake for the days when I AM LOSING MY MIND and those days do not include the possibility of pickled onions or cubed avocado. But maybe you are more capable than me.

As I write this, International Women's Day is drawing slowly to a close. A couple years ago, Berlin's government declared this day a holiday and I am still not over how furious this makes me. As my bestie Marguerite Joly succinctly puts it:

"My wish list for International Women's Day is so long and does not feature a state-mandated holiday. How about equal pay, legal access to abortion, tax-free hygiene products and a side of acknowledgment of women's mental load for starters?!! I do not want [gratitude] or flowers or a gd holiday; I want immediate inclusion and equality, justice and equity for all women of all colors, socio-economic backgrounds and all sexual orientations and abilities."

Amen, sister. With that I leave you to go chill my beer for tonight's viewing of an American actress and Diana's heir taking down the British monarchy.

Ali Slagle's Cheesy Black Bean Bake
Serves 3 to 4
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes (can be left out if you're cooking for heat-sensitive palates)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (14-ounce/400 gram) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup/120ml boiling water
Salt and black pepper
1 ½ cups/170 grams grated Cheddar cheese

1. Heat the oven to 475°F/245°C. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Fry the garlic until lightly golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, paprika, red-pepper flakes and cumin (be careful of splattering), and fry for 30 seconds, reducing the heat as needed to prevent the garlic from burning.

2. Add the beans, water and generous pinches of salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top then bake until the cheese has melted, 5 to 10 minutes. If the top is not as browned as you’d like, run the skillet under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve immediately.


Yossy Arefi's Simple Sesame Cake

Gluten-Free Simple Sesame Cake

I've been baking my way through Yossy Arefi's Snacking Cakes, a cookbook which came out last year. It's an excellent book, the kind that should just take up residence on your kitchen counter because it'll get used so much. The cakes are modest, one-bowl, one-pan affairs, but they're drop-dead delicious. Buckwheat Banana Cake. Pumpkin Olive Oil Cake. Buttermilk Spice Cake. Seeded Zucchini Cake. Minty Chocolate Malt Cake. You'll want to make every single one.

To qualify as a snacking cake, I believe it must be easy to make, with ingredients you mostly already have in your pantry, and requiring only one bowl. Maybe two. You want the making of the cake to soothe you as much as the eating of the cake. Nothing to mess up. No fussy preparation. Just the best kind of mindless baking where you're guaranteed something delicious in an hour or two.

I love this book's extremely narrow focus paired with its impressive breadth of offerings. There's a cake for every mood, every season, every occasion. (I was going to say short of a wedding, but the truth is I would happily eat one of these as a wedding cake, especially if it was a chic City Hall wedding or a crazy Vegas one. Case in point: Grapefruit White Chocolate Cake? Strawberry-Glazed Passion Fruit Cake? Sticky Whiskey Date Cake? I mean.)

Seeing as very few of us have "occasions" to bake for at the moment, I would like to underline the fact that I believe that it is very, very important to have cakes like this in your house at all times right now. They are for breakfast, they are for tea, they stand in for breakfast or as a special dessert—when dessert is usually fruit—they are good eaten standing up and they are good eaten sitting down. The Germans have a word for the food you eat when you're stressed and that word is Nervenfutter (nerve chow) (it's pronounced NAIR-fenn-foot-er). Snacking cakes are the quintessence of Nervenfutter.

Simple Sesame Cake

Now to this particular cake, the Simple Sesame Cake. It's made with tahini and two kinds of sesame seeds (which I had in my pantry anyway; if you only have regular sesame, not black, just do the cake with those). I substituted 1/4 cup oat flour and 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour (in fact, have done so in every recipe from this book that I've tried) and the results were velvety and perfect. Max can't stop marveling over the crumb. There's the faintest hint of bitterness from the tahini, and it's so lovely against the almost creamy crumb punctuated with all those tiny little sesame seeds.

If you're a cake pan butterer, then you can strew some of the sesame seeds onto the sides of the pan to truly encrust the entire cake in sesame, but I am an avowed non-butterer of pans, so I just scattered them thickly on top. I love the effect of the black and white sesame together and the gorgeous little crunch from the raw sugar on top. Up until now, the children have competed with us for pieces of each snacking cake I've made. For whatever reason, this one is a little too grown-up for them (it's like a grown-up peanut butter flavor), so we get to eat all of it ourselves.

All hail the snacking cake!

Gluten-Free Sesame Snacking Cake

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Yossy Arefi's Simple Sesame Cake
Adapted from Snacking Cakes
Makes
one 9-inch loaf cake
To make this cake gluten-free, replace the all-purpose flour with 1/4 cup oat flour and 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend.
Print this recipe!

6 tablespoons (50 grams) sesame seeds (white, black or mixed), divided
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) whole milk
1/2 cup (120 milliliters) well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup (60 milliliters) neutral vegetable oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon raw sugar, optional

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper, letting the sides hang over to create a sling.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and the egg until pale and foamy, about 1 minute. Add the milk, tahini, oil, vanilla and salt. Whisk until smooth. Add the flour(s), 3 tablespoons of the sesame seeds, the baking powder and baking soda. Whisk until well combined.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, tap the pan gently on the counter to release any air bubbles, and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds on top of the cake and, if using, the raw sugar.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and golden, and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

5. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Use the parchment overhang to lift the cake out of the pan and let cool completely before slicing and serving.


Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Tejal Rao's Khichdi

Thank you all very much for the commiseration on the loss of my digital photos and manuscript. I have spent a week licking my wounds and I am starting to feel better. The truth is, I already feel deeply oppressed by the masses of photos that clog every device I own. The sudden loss of thousands when I have so many more to deal with might be kind of a blessing? That's how I've decided I'm going to look at it. As for the manuscript, I had a big realization this fall that I wasn't happy with the existing structure of the book. I decided to change it substantially, but the only way to do that was to start over. So the fact that I lost those few weeks of summer work is annoying (and stupid), but I probably was going to trash those pages anyway. (The fact that I still don't have the kind of childcare that allows me to get started on draft three IS kind of the end of the world, but let's not dwell on that or I'll pull my hair out.)

After two months of lockdown, Hugo returned to in-person instruction this week. It's a very limited kind of school, just 2 1/2 hours daily, fully masked with only half his class. But it is school and it is not in my house and I am exceedingly grateful even just for this. Bruno, however, isn't allowed to return to Kita yet, so I actually have less time than I did before, because as everyone with multiple children knows, the child who only knows life with a sibling, when suddenly left alone without the sibling, is a lot more work. I am doing my best to keep my exasperation at the entire situation at bay, but sometimes, yes, I want to scream into a pillow. Or from the balcony, like a diva being murdered at La Scala.

Lunchtime still rolls around every day like an unwelcome flea-bitten guest. Except now the lunch hour is interrupted by me having to get in the car and drive an hour round-trip to pick Hugo up from school. He doesn't get a school lunch, so he's grumpy as hell at pickup. At home, he either eats leftovers from our lunch or I scramble him some eggs and butter some toast. As much as the daily meal prep drives me up the wall, I feel lucky that the act of cooking still brings me satisfaction. And Bruno is very understanding about lunchtime. While I cook, he comes and keeps me company in the kitchen, drawing pictures or staring into my pots, and it is a fleeting moment of the kind of quiet beauty you used to believe motherhood was full of until you actually became a mother and realized it was mostly a whole lot of everything else.

Anyway.

My kingdom for comforting one-pot meals, like this absolutely delicious khichdi from Tejal Rao. It is a doddle to make—just bang rice and split yellow moong beans and spices into a pot together, then let time and steam do their work—but produces the most fragrant, wonderful and spicy one-pot meal. You complete it with some hot Indian pickle (we're obsessed with my friend Kavita's homemade garlic achar, but any Indian pickle will do) and an extremely necessary pool of cool yogurt. Sometimes, if I'm feeling fancy, I doctor that pool of yogurt with salt and ground cumin and a grated Persian cucumber. Sometimes, I just dollop a spoonful on each plate. Khichdi is the kind of food that bolsters you, makes you feel just a bit more settled than you were before you ate it. Just the thing for these unsettling days.

Tejal Rao's Khichdi
Serves 3 to 4
Note: If you are cooking for small children, leave the chile powder out of the khichdi and just add it to your plate, but be careful, it's easy to overdo.
Print this recipe!

cup long-grain white rice, such as jasmine
cup yellow split moong beans
2 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
1 small cinnamon stick
2 green cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 sprig curry leaves (optional)
¼ teaspoon red chile powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1.
Combine the rice and beans and rinse several times. Drain and place in a heavy-bottomed pot with 1 3/4 cups water, and set over medium-high heat.

2. In another small saucepan, heat the ghee and mustard seeds. When the seeds start to pop, lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients, swirling them in the pan. Let the spices sizzle for under a minute, then carefully pour into the rice pot, along with the ghee. (Careful: The fat may splatter).

3. When the water comes up to a rolling boil, give it a good stir, scraping at the bottom of the pot, then cover tightly and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the rice rest for 10 minutes before opening the lid. Fluff gently with a spatula. Taste, season with salt to taste and serve.


Samin Nosrat's Kimchi Pancake

Kimchi Pancake

Everything is terrible, but this kimchi pancake, this chewy, spicy, wonderful kimchi pancake was a bright light in this shit basket of a week. I made it on Shrove Tuesday, the same day that I attempted a software update on my laptop without backing it up first. Cardinal sin, I know, I am aware! I have wrapped myself up so tightly in the shroud of my mistake that I am completely numb!

The recipe comes from Samin Nosrat's favorite Korean restaurant, a restaurant in Oakland called Pyeong Chang Tofu House and it is perfect perfect perfect. I followed the recipe almost exactly (substituting a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend for the all-purpose flour), using a 12-inch non-stick skillet so that I could just make one enormous pancake instead of two slightly smaller ones. The kimchi I used comes from Korea and was a particularly pungent batch, almost too pungent for our straight-up consumption. But in this pancake, the other ingredients smoothed out some of the kimchi's aggressive bite and made it delectable.

I made a batch of English pancakes for the boys, whipped the kimchijeon up as they ate their pancakes with applesauce and cinnamon sugar, and then the two of us demolished the kimchi pancake all by ourselves. We loved the crisp edges, the funky flavor, and especially the gorgeous chew punctuated by the crackling sesame seeds in the dipping sauce.

To sum up my week, I have lost six years of photos and the revisions of my manuscript that I worked on this summer, as well as untold other things that I can't allow myself to list here, but I also learned how to make delicious kimchijeon at home, so really, what's there to complain about?

(Sob.)

Kimchi Pancake (Kimchijeon)
Makes one 12-inch pancake
Print this recipe!

For the dipping sauce:
¼ cup citrus ponzu sauce
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
1 scallion, thinly sliced

For the batter:
½ cup potato starch
½ cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 heaping cup kimchi (about 10 ounces), plus 1/4 cup kimchi juice
2 scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

1. Make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine ponzu sauce, sesame seeds and scallion. Set aside.

2. Prepare the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together potato starch, flour, garlic powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Dice kimchi into 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium bowl, stir together kimchi and kimchi juice, scallions, gochujang, sugar, fish sauce and 1/2 cup water. Add kimchi mixture to flour mixture, and stir to combine.

4. Set a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add the batter and spread it from the center out to the edges of the pan. After a minute or two, when the pancake is setting, shake the pan a little to make sure the pancake isn't sticking. When the bottom of the pancake is brown and the top fades from glossy to matte, after another 30 to 60 seconds, carefully flip the pancake or slide the pancake onto a rimless plate and flip it back into the pan. Continue cooking for another 60 to 90 seconds on second side until set, then carefully slide pancake onto a plate.

5. Cut into wedges, and serve hot with dipping sauce.


Colu Henry's Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette

Roasted broccoli and scallions

Oof, friends. Just, oof. The pandemic wall has been hit again and again this past week. The despondency sits bone-deep. And it feels so terrible to even mention it, because we are so lucky, we are so fortunate, none of us are sick, we have a roof over our heads, the vaccine is starting to enter the bloodstreams of people we love, hey, the sun even came out today, and yet. And yet. And yet. I feel so tired and sad that I could cry. Oof.

Let me distract you with more frivolous things, yes?

On April 4th, 2019, I left you all hanging with a promise to be back soon with a broccoli recipe so delicious it caused my father, upon first ingestion of it, to say, and I quote, WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT THIS IS THE BEST BROCCOLI I HAVE EVER EATEN. The fact that it took me nearly two years to then follow up with the recipe gives me no pleasure. In fact, I feel like one of those people who get up lazily one night from the dinner table and say, yawning languidly, listen, I'm just going to take one more walk around the block to stretch my legs and then they just never return and 20 years go by before one day they turn up at your wedding with a grizzled face, a stringy ponytail and a sheepish look, asking for your forgiveness.

Too harsh?

In preparation for this post, I made the magical broccoli again. What if it wasn't as good as I remembered? What if I built up your expectations so high that this broccoli couldn't possibly do them justice? I needn't have worried. It really is delicious (phew!). The preparation is nothing especially new: you simply roast broccoli until they're singed and tender, but you add scallions to the roasting pan, which add sweetness and flavor, and then, once the vegetables are finished roasting, you douse them in a sweet-salty, spicy vinaigrette that is redolent with the funk of fish sauce, and shower punchy herbs on top. It gives roasted broccoli a whole new spin and it is addictively good. I could have eaten the entire head of broccoli as my meal, but luckily, I had eaters at my table who saved me from an untimely death by cruciferous vegetable. I might not be so lucky next time.

Thai-style vinaigrette

I think it's important to increase the number of scallions from the original, because they're one of the best parts of this salad (can we call it a salad? I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with that). The original recipe also says to only serve this fresh from the oven, "otherwise, the vegetables get soggy." Turns out I quite like soggy vegetables? Or maybe I wouldn't call them that to begin with? Yes, this is delectable when the broccoli is still hot and crisp, but it's really still very wonderful after it has cooled to room temperature. So proceed as you like.

And if you have any leftover vinaigrette sloshing at the bottom of the bowl, save it and pour it over some plain rice for your supper. (You could, of course, do what my husband does and simply tip the bowl against your lips and drink the dressing straight, but I'm going to assume you are more refined than he is.)

So there you have it! The miraculous broccoli is yours. May it bring a little sparkle to your day.

Roasted broccoli and scallions with Thai-style vinaigrette

Roasted Broccoli and Scallions with Thai-Style Vinaigrette
Serves 4 as a side dish
Print this recipe!

For the broccoli and scallions:
1 ½
pounds/680 grams broccoli (about 2 good-sized crowns and their stems), cut into florets
8 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
1 small fresh red chile, minced, or ½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint

1. Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the broccoli and scallions in a large roasting or sheet pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and toss. Roast until crisp and browned, about 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through to ensure even cooking.

2. While the vegetables roast, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients until the brown sugar is dissolved. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

3. Place the broccoli and scallions in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Erin Jeanne McDowell's Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake

I know that there is nothing more tedious than reading about other people's special diets, but I'm going to be posting about gluten-free baking more frequently here and I would like to explain the shift. I'll try to keep things brief, but obviously, if you have questions about any of it, please feel free to ask away below.

I recently stopped eating gluten for good. It was a long time coming. Several years ago, after the fog of my second pregnancy lifted, I noticed lots of persistent and painful digestive symptoms. On my doctor's advice, I tried eliminating various foods out of my diet. The most noticeable difference happened when I stopped eating gluten, but, I mean, I love gluten. I LOVE IT. I love eating it and baking with it, bread and pies and pasta and toast and cakes and cookies and and and...I really just didn't want it to be true. Plus, some pesky and particularly worrying symptoms remained regardless of what I ate or didn't eat.

I ended up having a colonoscopy, during which a pretty large precancerous polyp was discovered and removed. It was a scary experience. The handsome gastroenterologist, who'd been a little scornful about why I was showing up for a colonoscopy at the age of 40, turned white as a sheet after the procedure and told me that my GP, who had insisted on the colonoscopy despite my young age, had saved my life. Uh, yay? Around the same time, I was diagnosed with stress-related gastritis. During the endoscopy for that, I was tested for celiac disease, which turned out to be negative, thankfully.

I took a course of antibiotics for the gastritis and tried to reduce my stress (ha ha haaaa) and things slowly calmed down. Still, even when all the scary stuff was out of the way, I still dealt regularly with pain and bloating and other unpleasant things. I tried the FODMAP diet for a while, which sort of helped. I tried replacing all regular bread with sourdough, which also sort of helped. But eventually, I cut gluten out entirely, and it has made a world of difference. In fact, it made me realize for just how long I'd been dealing with digestive pain, anxiety and distress. It long predates having children, that's for sure.

So that's that. I don't have celiac, but I do have gluten intolerance. I've stopped eating gluten, but luckily, I don't have to worry too much about cross-contamination. For example, when we have pasta for dinner, I make regular pasta for my family and gluten-free pasta for me, but when I have to test the pasta, I know that half a wheat noodle isn't going to hurt me. But I recently ate a piece of regular birthday cake at Bruno's birthday (how bad could it be to have just one piece?) and I was in so much pain and discomfort the next day that I really regretted it (damn, it was a good piece of cake, though).

Going gluten-free without celiac disease isn't a terrible hardship. Good-quality gluten-free pasta and bread isn't that hard to find anymore (and I'm lucky enough to live sort of close to the most amazing gluten-free sourdough bakery called Aera) and I have loved the challenge of discovering the huge variety of Asian noodles that are naturally gluten-free, as well as cooking more with rice and other gluten-free grains. But gluten-free baking really is a whole other ball of wax.

As I wrote on Instagram the other day, after a lifetime of home baking, it's been humbling, to say the least, to dip my toes into the waters of gluten-free baking. So much trial and error. So many failed experiments. What I have realized is that my only goal, really, is to learn to make gluten-free things that are delicious in their own right and that people will want to eat even if they aren't gluten-intolerant.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Sweet Bread

Which means that now I can finally get to the thing I really wanted to tell you about! This cake!

The recipe originally comes from the self-titled baking fairy godmother herself, Erin Jeanne McDowell, and isn't gluten-free to start with, but I fiddled with the ingredients a little bit (after an ill-fated experiment with a different applesauce cake that was so sandy as to be rather repulsive) and ended up with a cake so tender and lovely that we couldn't stop eating it. It was my tea break cake and Hugo's breakfast cake for nearly a week! It's the kind of cake that you want living on your counter permanently, with a velvety crumb, a wonderfully chewy-crunchy top and a whole lot of cozy flavor.

You'll need apple butter, which I make every fall after we go apple picking, using this brilliant recipe. This year I made the apple butter in the Instant Pot, which made things go so much quicker, so I very much recommend that little shortcut. You'll also need an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend. I use one from Schär, because it's what I can get at my local grocery store here. Two things I've learned from kind commenters and some reading is that adding a little bit of oat flour to a gluten-free cake or cookie can help provide a better, less gritty crumb and that it's essential to let gluten-free cake batter (and other baking mixtures, I assume) sit a bit to hydrate the flours properly. I reduced the amount of sugar from the original and I think it's the perfect amount of sweet.

Below you'll find the recipe as I made it (the original is here). I hope you like it as much as we did. Next time, I'll try folding in a handful of walnuts and the time after that, a handful of fresh cranberries. (If you stick to the original recipe, I still think you can leave out the brown sugar entirely.)

And if you have any tips or tricks or favorite gluten-free recipes or sites or books to recommend, have at it in the comments! I'd be so grateful.

Gluten-Free Apple Butter Loaf Cake
Makes one 9-inch loaf cake
Print the recipe!

1 cup/130 grams all-purpose gluten-free flour blend
½ cup/60 grams oat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ cup/120 milliliters vegetable oil
½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup/180 milliliters apple butter
¼ cup/60 milliliters plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, or to taste

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 Celsius) and line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, oat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt to combine. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk well after each addition to incorporate. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

3. Add the flour mixture and stir just to combine. Add the apple butter and yogurt and mix well to incorporate. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Set aside to rest for 8-10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the surface of the loaf generously with turbinado sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then, using the parchment paper as a sling, pull the cake out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing and serving. The cake, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap, will last at room temperature for five days.


Lidia Bastianich's Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

I just have one question for you today. ARE YOU SAVING THE RINDS OF YOUR PARMESAN CHEESE?

Sorry if that's a little loud, but I just really need to make sure that all of you have gotten the Parmesan rind memo, okay?

I'll try and calm down now. Alright.

Now, have I told you about my freezer? (Okay, fine, two questions.) There are many, many things that I love about living in Europe. But I'll tell you one something: European freezers are not one of them. They are A LOT to get used to and by A LOT I mean not much at all. I have shoe boxes larger than my freezer. Not even kidding!

Anyway!

My freezer. It is the home of a few forlorn Chinese dumplings, some tortillas purchased in Boston in 2019 (sob), a couple of boxes of frozen veg, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (wheee! It was one of my birthday presents in December and it is brilliant) and about 15 foil-wrapped Parmesan rinds. We go through a lot of Parmesan cheese in this house, as it must top almost every plate of spaghetti (not Hugo's, though, who loathes melted cheese in all forms yes I'm talking grilled cheese and gratins and lasagne and nachos and PIZZA why God whyyyyyyyyyy) and because it is the only cheese that the boys will eat thin slivers of, after dinner, like sophisticated little creatures destined for a life of pleasure and harmony.

Every time we get to the end of a wedge of cheese (and I mean the very end, we're talking just a few millimeters), I wrap them up in a piece of aluminum foil and throw them into the freezer. This way, the next time I make soup, I know I have a little umami flavor bomb just waiting to be pulled into active duty. Straight from the freezer, I unwrap the rind, plop it into the pot of broth and let it do its magic.

As it simmers away in that pot of soup, the rind miraculously continues giving up huge amounts of flavor, enough to scent the house and make your soup taste very, very good. Then there is the added bonus that the rind is entirely edible. As it cooks, it softens and mellows. Upon serving the soup, you can fish out the rind and, depending on the size, either share it with your fellow diners or eat it all yourself, a very well-earned cook's snack.

My mother and I love the rind and always share it. My husband and children do not (it's a textural thing, as it's a little rubbery, which is pleasing to some and not to all), so I get to eat it all myself.

Now, on to this particular soup. It comes from the way back, dusty depths of this very blog, having first been published in November of 2005, when baby Wednesday Chef was just a few months old. A wee bairn! It comes from Lidia Bastianich, grande dame of New York Italian cooking, and it features the absolutely wonderful pairing of potatoes and rice, which will strike some of you as too much starch! and others as just enough. I am firmly in the there is no such thing as too much starch camp and so this soup is one of my very favorites.

It is nourishing and a balm, to make and to eat, and you can, as with Rachel's squash and rice soup, play with the amount of liquid you use to make a looser or stewier soup. If you err on the side of stewy, and there are leftovers, they will cool into risotto, which will please (no, let's be real, may please) the children in your home. The parsley, I feel, is essential because it brings a bit of brightness and the faintest touch of acidity to the soup, balancing out the flavors nicely. If your children are the kind to fall over in a dead faint at the sight of something green in their soup COUGH COUGH, leave it out of the pot and just sprinkle it on your own portion.

One of the oddities of a life in food blogging is the fact that you have the pleasure of eating so many delicious meals that rarely get made again, because there are so many other recipes to get to. This is hardly a hardship, though Max has been known to beg me to remember certain dishes while he's eating them. I'm happy to say that this recipe is one of those rare ones that comes around again and again, lamination-worthy, as I have been known to say. These beloved favorites now have their very own category over there in the sidebar on the right.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the categories in general have been cleaned up and clarified a bit, so that now you can quickly navigate your way to quick weeknight dinners, vegetarian main dishes or gluten-free recipes. I hope this helps you navigate all the good food available here. In fact, in the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other favorites that I first wrote about long ago, but that I feel deserve some fresh sunlight and a little love.

Note: This post includes an affiliate link and I may earn a commission if you purchase through it, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan
Serves 6
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup long-grain or arborio rice
8 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if desired
2 2-inch-squares Parmesan rind
1 fresh or dried bay leaf 
A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well to coat the vegetables. 

2. Add the rice, broth, cheese rinds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 18-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. If you'd like a looser soup, add a little more broth. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Remove the rinds, cut into pieces and distribute among the serving plates. Ladle the soup on top and serve.